The new season is nearly upon us. Spring training is in full flow, competition battles have begun and opening day is within touching distance. And so, it's time to introduce the 2015 Houston Astros lineup - more like: have a good guess as to how it's going to look. The fast approaching season is sure to be filled with much promise, lots of home runs and plenty of strikeouts - but, who cares? All outs are the same, anyway, pretty much. While some Is have to dotted and some Ts have to be crossed - namely; the bench, the fifth starter and the last bullpen arm - the lineup is pretty clear. With a few exceptions, that is.
Astros fans were subjected to horrible indecision this offseason with the building of the new roster: sacrifice home runs for defense? Have a little of each? Who knows, who knows. In posing that question we illuminate some of the decisions that have to be made regarding the opening day lineup. The majority of positions are crystal clear. Some, on the other hand, are not. Marisnick or Rasmus? Marisnick and Rasmus with Gattis at first and Singleton in the minors? Rasmus, Gattis and Singleton, and all the home runs? Without further ado, here's the opening day lineup that I think should be fielded on April sixth.
I'm going for the home runs.
Chris Carter, DH
Carter is the obvious designated hitter. In case you missed it, Carter mashed last season: hitting 37 dingers, slugging .491, posting a wRC+ of 123 and almost compiling a two win season despite barely playing the field. And, the best thing is, next year should be no different. I'll be extremely disappointed, and you should be too, if Carter doesn't have another big year. The Astros should be, in case I haven't mentioned it already, the home run champions next year and Carter will lead the charge from DH. Long live, Trogdor.
Jason Castro, C
The catcher debate was an interesting one. Early in the offseason, the Astros acquired Hank Conger from the Angels. While Conger, to the untrained eye, screams out easy backup catcher, his pitch framing numbers are amazing - boasting the highest framing runs per game among all catchers. But, that said, Castro is pretty sound in that department, too. Not to mention that Castro is the superior hitter - ZiPs project a wRC+ of 105 with fourteen long balls. All in all, while Conger has plenty to offer, Castro will be behind the dish on opening day.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B
Some actually think that Singleton will start the season in the minors. But, I can't see him anywhere other than first base on opening day. The potential, the ceiling, the home runs. Okay, yes, Singleton isn't a guaranteed, bona fide, proven major league first baseman. The potential to struggle also exists. His first showing in the big leagues wasn't exactly as planned: posting a wRC+ of 79 with a negative WAR, but, he did display his power. And, his spring training has been very impressive thus far. He seems to be enjoying himself. Enjoying playing baseball. When he gets locked in, he will mash. Singleton will mash this season.
Jose Altuve, 2B
Altuve gathered some MVP fanfare last season, enough said. He hit anything and everything, collating a cool 225 hits with a wRC+ of 135 and a WAR of 5.1. To put it simply, Altuve was the Astros' franchise player last season. He was in the centre of everything good last year, and I don't expect that to change next season - well, maybe with a hint of regression, in honesty. He will continue to hit anything and everything, though. His defense won't be too bad with the all the shifting the Astros are going to do - despite Manfred's best attempts to eradicate it. Altuve is the Astros. Even if he doesn't hit homers.
Jed Lowrie, SS
Lowrie wasn't an overly glamorous acquisition. But, he was certainly an under the radar acquisition. At shortstop, okay, his defense will be a little lacklustre but will suffice. His bat is what excites me, though. Lowrie is only one year removed from a 120 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR season with the Red Sox, and has already proven himself in Houston with the Astros, too. As a shortstop, a projected 105 wRC+ is something to behold. An easy two win, more likely three win shortstop is always a nice piece to have. Lowrie isn't glamorous, but Lowrie will be effective.
Luis Valbuena, 3B
Valbuena was my favourite addition by the Astros this offseason. Both his WAR and wRC+ have steadily improved over the last three seasons, and, in my humble opinion, is set for a three win season at third. His defense is okay - probably a slight downgrade from Matt Dominguez. But, he has serious pop. And, here in Houston, we love pop. Valbuena hit 16 dingers last season, and should do something similar next season. He also walks a tonne - Valbuena has a career BB% of 10.4, something we also love here in Houston. And, yes, he will strikeout a decent bit.
Evan Gattis, LF
Gattis was another offseason addition. Primarily a catcher, the Astros will move him away from behind the dish, thankfully. He figures to see the majority of his time in left field, but will probably play some first and DH a bit. Gattis strikes out a lot. He doesn't walk a bunch. What he does do, however, is hit long balls. Of course. Gattis slugged .493 last season, and knocked 22 balls out of the park, collating a wRC+ of 125 and a WAR of 2.3. Another great offseason addition, Gattis figures to play a huge role for the Astros next season; wherever he may be playing on the field. His defense is pretty horrible, but there's a chance that Marisnick plays in centre beside him, so who cares? Home runs, folks.
Colby Rasmus, CF
Another offseason addition. Rasmus is a really, really nice player. He has power, walks a bit, and can play some good defense. I'm picking him over Marisnick because Rasmus can most certainly hold his own on the field. He has a career DRS of eight in the outfield. Plus, he's a proven major league hitter. With a career BB% of 8.6 and being only a year removed from slugging .501 for the Blue Jays, he will fit right in. He hits home runs, of course, and has been a four win player in the past. Putting my neck on the line; I think Rasmus will post a four win season from centre field. Another, great offseason addition by the front office.
George Springer, RF
Last, but not least, Springer. Springer burst onto the scene last year with an incredible rookie campaign, prior to injury. If there's any one player you want to be really excited about? Try Springer. The young right fielder has shown highlight reel potential in the outfield, and silver slugger potential in the batter's box. Naturally, he walks lots, hits for a tonne of power and has a bunch of potential. If he can stay healthy this coming season, Springer will do great things. Now that you've seen the starting nine, let's have a look at how they should/might lineup next season.
- Jose Altuve
- George Springer
- Evan Gattis
- Chris Carter
- Colby Rasmus
- Luis Valbuena
- Jonathan Singleton
- Jed Lowrie
- Jason Castro